The Brookings Institute has released an eye-opening report based on the 2010 U.S. Census: America’s Diverse Future: Initial Glimpses at the U.S. Child Population from the 2010 Census, written by William H. Frey. It focuses on the faster than expected rise of the ethnic diversity of the child population in America. The report has profound implications for the local church and Christian ministries.
These are the two most startling facts from this report:
- New minorities—Hispanics, Asians, and other groups apart from whites, blacks, and American Indians—account for all of the growth among the nation’s child population. From 2000 to 2010, the population of white children nationwide declined by 4.3 million, while the population of Hispanic and Asian children grew by 5.5 million.
- Ten states and 35 large metro areas now have minority white child populations. Child populations in the Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, and Phoenix metro areas flipped to “majority minority” by 2010.
This Brookings paper on the 2010 U.S. Census explores the compelling facts about the increasing ethnic diversity of America—a diversity which, in America’s child population, is growing more rapidly than expected. For churches in America, the facts in the report represent more than a ministry challenge for the distant future. This is about seeing the needs and seizing the golden opportunities for cross-cultural ministry and cultural understanding. It’s about serving children and families, building God’s kingdom cross-culturally—right here, right now.
Here are 14 ramifications I see for the Church in America—based on the Brookings report concerning the 2010 U.S. Census.
Because of the rapid increase of the ethnic diversity of the child population of America, I suggest that discerning pastors and other Christian leaders will …
- See the gift and seize the opportunity.
These remarkable demographic shifts among the youth of America are God’s gift. All too often these changes are viewed fearfully. But these changes need not be viewed as a threat; rather, these changes represent an enormous opportunity which is specially suited for the Church. Is there not an expectation from God toward his people to seize these opportunities to bless other peoples and nations?
- Prioritize youth and children.
Recognize the immediate priority for training youth leaders and children’s ministry leaders in Christ-centered Cultural Intelligence (CQ). Increasingly, the children and youth whom they serve are from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
- Pursue cross-cultural friendships with other leaders.
The U. S. Census findings show that while the white child population declined by 4.3 million, there was a corresponding increase of 5.5 million in the Latino/Asian child population. Opportunities for cross-cultural ministries and partnerships between leaders and their communities will continue to grow. Leaders who are bi-lingual and/or comfortable in another culture will have advantages over those who are not.
- Ride the trends through training.
The mega-trends of globalization and the migration of the peoples have amplified the need for training in cross-cultural ministry. Savvy leaders will embrace the reality that the long-term health of the Church is at least partly dependent on this: Devoting resources to training ordinary believers in the local church to relate well to people from other cultures.
- Equip laity in CQ.
Christ-centered Cultural Intelligence (CQ) training used to be for the experts. In the Church, the “experts” are represented by professional career missionaries. But the demographic changes represented by this 2010 Census report strongly imply a major shift needs to happen. That shift is from the assumption that CQ is an exclusive thing for professionals—to an assumption that it is a basic commodity, basic training for everyone—for ordinary believers from child to youth to adult. It’s a vision where CQ training becomes a normal part of Christian discipleship.
- Embrace “glocal.”
Healthy churches will embrace cross-cultural ministry locally and globally. Missions is no longer characterized as just sending people or resources from here at home to way over there; rather, the mandate of God’s Word and the opportunities implied by the 2010 U. S. Census and other global trends—is to bless all peoples, both local and global, or “glocal.” It’s from everywhere to everywhere.
- Teach local/global all the time.
The great pastors will preach and teach God’s Word consistently to their congregations with a global blessing mentality. As a result, their members’ capacities for cross-cultural ministry locally and globally will increase. The annual missions conference, or an annual missions-emphasis weekend will increasingly become a thing of the past. Only regular preaching and teaching with a local+global cross-cultural theme will satisfy the cross-cultural ministry demands of the local church.
- Teach WHY; teach HOW.
It’s one thing to know the biblical basis for blessing all the peoples of the earth. The role of the preaching pastor is clear in this regard. But it is a whole different thing to equip ordinary believers with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to build relationships cross-culturally. The effective church will give ample attention to equipping average believers in this regard.
- Expect generation-based tensions.
This is nothing new. But it could get worse. Older generation lay leaders—the Baby-Boomers and older in the church family (usually the bigger givers)—are comfortable with the cultural status quo. Young, ethnically diverse members of our churches will likely have very different priorities for ministry. This will create tension and will require much patient prayer, listening and navigational expertise.
- Anticipate shock … and joy.
Culture shock will not be something believers experience only on far-away mission trips. Might it also become a routine aspect of local church ministry? On the other hand, believers who are trained in building authentic cross-cultural relationships will find even more joy in following Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all peoples and nations.
- Seek out the sage.
Who are the sages of cross-cultural understanding in the Christian world? Are they not the seasoned missionaries and ministries with years of experience serving or partnering cross-culturally? Seek those missionaries and ministries who love to train ordinary believers in local churches to build healthy cross-cultural relationships and partnerships. Many are longing to serve you. Is it wise to think you don’t need them? Don’t reinvent the wheel.
- Explore the CQ resources. In addition to The Beauty of Partnership Study Guide available though this website, there are several books designed to help leaders acquire Cultural Intelligence. A quick search at amazon.com will make you aware of the number of books available.
- Remember the unreached peoples far away. The increasing ethnic diversity of our own communities, especially in urban settings, may tempt some Christian leaders to think that reaching the peoples within their own community—is satisfactory obedience to Scripture. But Jesus said, “…make disciple of all nations… (Matt. 28:19) and “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). The temptation to focus on “local alone”, regardless of how ethnically diverse it may be, should be avoided for a balanced approach that is local, regional, and global.
- Expect great blessings from God.
This represents a huge opportunity for the local church to participate in the grand over-arching purpose of God—to bless all the nations of the earth through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Expect cross-cultural ministries and partnerships—locally and globally—to become more fruitful, more exciting, more dynamic. Obedience to Jesus Christ combined with cross-cultural understanding and training will result in a great harvest of transformed lives—for the glory of God.
Download the article here: America’s Diverse Future: Initial Glimpses at the U.S. Child Population from the 2010 Census, written by William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution.